March 25, 2014

Sesame White Chocolate Cookies

I've been promising my classes treats for weeks, months even. This semester has been a rough one so far due to multiple snow days in January and February, then the sudden death of a student, and now practice PARCC testing which disrupts our schedule further.

Still, my classes have been pretty good. I've been very impressed.

They deserve treats.

Speaking of school, I was once again nominated by our top seniors for the area Teacher of the Year award (which I won two years ago). This is my third nomination in the six years I've been at this high school. I'm proud, dammit! Yesterday, I got the recommendation letters they wrote for me. Reading them made me teary-eyed. ;-)

My senior classes usually get treats from me, so these cookies were for one of my sophomore classes which was randomly chosen to practice taking the new assessment tests online. They have to complete three reading and writing tests this week. It's time consuming and can be mentally exhausting.

I hope these treats will motivate them a little bit. 

Sesame White Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Dessert for Two

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March 17, 2014

Homemade Corned Beef

I've wanted to corn my own beef (hubba) for a few years, but it never seemed to work out. A couple years ago, I couldn't find pink salt anywhere local and didn't have time to order it online. Last year, I had curing salt on-hand but didn't plan enough time to brine the brisket before St. Patrick's Day.

This year, however, I planned ahead…I made the brine last Monday. I added the brisket on Tuesday, and I let that sucker sit for 5 days before our big Sunday dinner.

I had my doubts.

First, I worried that the meat wouldn't look right because I used curing salt instead of pink salt. I found conflicting opinions online about this…some people say the pink salt is what gives corned beef its red tint, while others maintain that it's the brining process that makes it red (and that the salt is pink so as not to confuse it with regular table salt). Curing salts are generally a mix of table salt, sodium nitrite and sometimes sodium nitrate, curing agents that also contribute to the development of color and flavor. Common types of curing salts are Prague powder #1 (94% salt and 6% sodium nitrite) and Prague powder #2 (which also includes sodium nitrate). I used Morton's Tender Quick (which contains salt, sodium nitrate, and sodium nitrite).

Secondly, I was worried about the texture. I thought it might not be as tender as corned beef should be. Brisket can be so tough. I normally cook corned beef in the crockpot all day, but decided to follow the recipe fully and braise the brined brisket on the stovetop for 3 hours.

Finally, I was worried that the homemade version wouldn't taste like the corned beef I knew. Like most people, I only cook corned beef once a year…and I buy one from the grocery store. I know they are not organic, locally-raised, pasture-fed, etc…but sometimes a once-a-year tradition supersedes all that. I figure, at least I wasn't using corned beef from a can like my mom used to.

But, I shouldn't have worried. The finished brisket looked good! While it wasn't red all the way through, there was a reddish tint around the edges. It was perfectly tender, and it tasted great! BETTER than the corned beefs past.

Beef corning success!

Homemade Corned Beef
recipe from Michael Ruhlman via Leite's Culinaria

Photo by Corey Woodruff

March 9, 2014

Pasta al Pomodoro with Slow-Poached Eggs

I'm happy to be participating in the March Meatless Meals party sponsored by Davidson's Safest Choice® Eggs

This month, Safest Choice asked some bloggers to make a vegetarian dish featuring eggs. Why? Because "eggs are economical, extremely versatile and might just be the world’s most perfect protein. One egg contains 70 calories and 6 grams of protein making them a great option for vegetarian recipes. And with Safest Choice Eggs all of your favorite vegetarian recipes can be enjoyed worry free because: pasteurized = peace of mind."

And because you can win big! Enter at the bottom of this post for a chance to win one of two Safest Choice prize packs (valued at $467 each)! Each prize pack will include:

  • one (1) $200 Amex gift card
  • one (1) Lodge Round Fry Pan 10”
  • one (1) Sur La Table® Red Mixing Bowls
  • one (1) Flexible Nylon Spatula
  • one (1) Eggs cookbook
  • 52 coupons for a free dozen of Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs

The contest runs through March 31.

While I am kind of in love with all things pork, I don't usually cook that much meat at home on a daily basis. A typical dinner might be stir fried vegetables with rice. Or a salad of some sort. Or a make-shift soup with whatever I have on-hand. Or pasta with a simple sauce. 

I am, however, very much in the "put an egg on it" camp. Sometimes, dinner might be leftover pizza with a dippy, sunny-side-up egg on top. Or buttered noodles tossed with roasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs, and a fried egg. Or soft boiled eggs over sautéed greens with herbed white beans.

There is nothing quite as sexy as an unctuous, runny egg yolk. And the best way to get that perfectly oozy yolk? SLOW POACHING IN THE SHELL.

Slow-Poached Eggs
recipe from David Chang's Momofuku

Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and put it on the stove over the lowest possible heat.

Use something to keep the eggs from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where the temperature will be highest. If you’ve got a cake rack or a steamer rack, use it. If not, improvise: a doughnut of aluminum foil or a few chopsticks scattered helter skelter across the bottom of the pan will usually do the trick, but you know what you’ve got lying around. Be resourceful. (Kelly's Note: A metal trivet or an old-school collapsible metal steamer works perfectly here.)

Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature in the pot – if it’s too hot, add cold water or an ice cube. Once the water is between 140 and 145F, add the eggs to the pot. Let them bathe for 40 to 45 minutes, checking the temperature regularly with the thermometer or by sticking your finger in the water (it should be the temperature of a very hot bath) and moderating it as needed.

You can use the eggs immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. (If you’re planning on storing them, chill them until cold in an ice-water bath.) If you refrigerate the eggs, warm them under piping hot tap water for 1 minute before using.

To serve the eggs, crack them one at a time into a small saucer. The thin white will not and should not be firm or solid; tip the dish to pour off and discard the loosest part of the white, then slide the egg onto the dish it’s destined for.

Pasta al Pomodoro
recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

March 2, 2014

Lobster Rolls

When my friend Theresa came over last month to cook Coq au Riesling with me, we decided to make New England lobster rolls next time. I'd never eaten a real lobster roll, but we agreed that we had to make everything from scratch for it to be authentic--including cooking live lobsters, making mayonnaise for the salad, and baking fresh buns.

Lobster rolls are traditionally served on flat-sided buns that are buttered and toasted. According to the Boston Globe, "Variously called top-sliced, top-loading, or frankfurter roll, the style was developed sometime in the mid- to late ’40s, explains Michael Cornelis, vice president of American Pan, which makes baking pans for the industry. Howard Johnson’s approached J. J. Nissen bakery of Maine to develop a special bun for its fried clam strip sandwich. The restaurant chain wanted top sliced rolls that would stand upright and be easier to prepare, serve, and eat. […] 'Before the New England-style roll,' says Cornelis, 'there was no way to mechanically slice a bun part of the way through. If you wanted a roll pre-sliced, commercial bakers would slice them all the way through. Well, that’s not as happy a hot dog bun.'"

I borrowed Ruth's hot dog bun pan and followed the recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. In the end, they turned out just fine--albeit a little dense. Next time, I would buy good-quality buns (hubba) instead.

The lobster salad, however, was damn delicious. 

So, what do you think Theresa and I should cook next month?

Maine Lobster Rolls
recipe slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home